Saturday, March 20, 2010

Women Musicians Network 13th Annual Concert at the Berklee Performance Center March 4, 2010

Women Musicians Network 13th Annual Concert
at the Berklee Performance Center
March 4, 2010

Directed by Lucy Holstedt & Christiane Karam

By Reza Tokaloo

As a drummer and a music fan, I have been looking forward to this evening—and writing about it. I arrive at the event at 8:00 pm, 15 minutes before the opening act. My wife and I find two seats in the rapidly filling BPC. Looking around as the starting time approaches, the venue appears close to sold out.

At 8:15 Lucy Holstedt—our main emcee for the evening—walks onto the stage, along with fellow Berklee faculty member Christine Karam and student leader Arielle Schwalm. Lucy welcomes the audience, gives a brief overview of the W.M.N. group, and then the concert is off to a rousing start with a vibrant Brazilian act. Vocalist Tais Alvarenga and her Samba band have a hip-swaying intensity that fills the performance center.

This is just the first of 12 acts. Lucy Holstedt explained to me several days before that the W.M.N. “listening committee” received over 120 submissions last fall; this meant a long weekend of deciding which dozen would create the best, most diverse musical “set.” (Space constraints will prevent me from commenting on all the acts, but every one was first-rate—as evidenced by the applause that erupted frequently from the audience.)

Pianist Sonia Belousova, from St. Petersburg, Russia, is one of the crowd’s favorites. Her original “contemporary classical” piece Humouresque is an amazing demonstration of creativity, fun, passion and solo technical virtuosity.

Soon after, a rousing performance is turned in by Nadia Washington and her all-male band. Nadia mesmerizes the crowd with her composition When You Fall. Nadia’s silky voice has an amazing range. And what a great improvised segment between Nadia and her drummer! Great scat-vocalizing and stage presence make for a powerful song, and an equally strong crowd response.

Hanna Barakat’s Cycle takes us on a multi-faceted journey through her Lebanese identity, exploring both inner (personal) and outer (regional, Israeli-Palestinian) motifs in a piece that combines Middle Eastern rhythms and modern rock. Hanna’s group includes oud and quanun players, plus two backup singers. There is a strong peace message.

As the next act prepares to take the stage, Lucy announces that a special award is being given to Nabil and Joseph Sater, the “creative visionaries” responsible for the famous Middle East restaurants and nightclubs in Cambridge, as well as the extensive Center for Arts at the Armory, in Somerville.

A quick note on the history and mission of the W.M.N.: this student group, co-founded by Lucy Holstedt (also its faculty advisor) was created in response to a request by female students: as a minority at Berklee College of Music, they wanted a greater opportunity to perform. As the percentage of female students has increased, this annual concert has expanded to include a significant number of male performers. Still, the focus is on Berklee women—as composers, band leaders, bass players, lead guitarists, producers, and in other roles more often associated with men.

You don’t see lots of female drummers, for example, but Ayeisha Mathis is tremendous. I enjoy watching her as part of a group from City Music, the Berklee music education program that gives opportunities to public school students in the city. The group, Voices of Mercy, performs a gospel/spoken word piece inspired by the situation in Darfur (Sudan).

Another unique treat is the duo of Julgi Kang (violin) and Evan Veenstra (electric bass). Julgi and Evan playfully converse musically in the aptly titled Funky Caprice No. 24, Ms. Kang’s arrangement of a work by Paganini. Julgi’s violin takes on the serious voice, and Evan uses a slap bass technique in their quirky, virtuosic exchange.

Vocalist and songwriter Jill Peacock gives the evening some lyrical humor with her piece Embrace Technology, in which it quickly becomes clear that technology is the last thing she wishes to embrace. She has arranged a witty and well- written jazz study, with all members of her group giving very solid performances.

Indie-rock group Mrs. Danvers, led by singer/songwriter/guitarist Ann Driscoll, has gathered a solid cult following in the area after being together only about a year, and it sounds like a large number of their followers has turned out tonight. Mrs. Danvers presents solid instrumental chops and lots of classic rock moments in Driscoll’s What Did I Do.

The finale begins with Ayumi Ueda and her group Women of the World onstage, performing—with bassist Karien DeWaal—a song written by Karien and co-arranged with Ayumi. As Life Has a Cycle unfolds, two lines of Berklee women make their way down the aisles through the crowd and then up on stage to joining the others, forming an extended chorus. A very percussive piece, Cycle finally builds into the crescendo of the night, as all the evening’s prior performers come out and join in.

The Women Musicians Network 13th Annual Concert was a great event for Berklee and a treat for the surrounding community. The evening flowed extremely well and all of the acts moved steadily into each other with “tuning time” or other (typical) technical issues all but invisible. And it’s difficult to imagine a broader range of the musical spectrum being fit into an evening that lasted less than two hours.

You can get on the W.M.N. mailing list by going to They may have more events before the next annual concert, which is always held in March.

Friday, March 19, 2010


CO-SPONSORS: Tapestry of Voices & Kaji Aso Studio in partnership with the Boston Public Library, SAVE the DATE, Saturday, April 10th 10:00 A.M.- 4:45 P.M. OPEN MIKE: 1:30 to 3:00P.M.; & Sunday, April 11th, 1:10 to 4:30P.M. The Festival will be held at the library’s main branch in Copley Square. FREE ADMISSION

56 Major and Emerging poets will each do a ten minute reading; ALSO

Featuring six extraordinarily talented prize winning high school students: from Boston Latin High School: Andy Vo and Justin Singletary, and Emmanuel Oppong-Yeboah; Boston Arts Academy:Erica Telisnor and Osiris Morel; Gabriella Fee: Walnut Hill School for the Arts. These student stars will open the Festival at 10:00 A.M. SAM CORNISH, Boston’s current and first Poet Laureate will open the formal part of the Festival at 11:00 A.M. 55 additional major and emerging poets will follow with a


Some of the many luminaries include SAM CORNISH, Diana Der Hovanessian, Richard Wollman, Jennifer Barber, Afaa M. Weaver, Barbara Helfgott-Hyett, Alfred Nicole, Ellen Steinbaum, Doug Holder, Charles Coe, Kathleen Spivack, Ryk McIntyre, Elizabeth McKim, Regie O’Gibson, Kate Finnegan, Michael Bialis, Susan Donnelly,John Ziemba, (Kaji Aso Studio), Sandee Story, CD Collins, Marc Goldfinger, Gloria Mindock, Tim Gager, Diana Saenz, Stuart Peterfreund, Valerie Lawson, Tom Daley, Molly Watt, Ifeanyi Menkiti, Mark Pawlak, Lainie Senechal, Harris Gardner, Joanna Nealon, Richard Hoffman, Susan Donnelly, Irene Koronas, Robert K. Johnson, and a Plethora of other prize winning poets.

This Festival has it all: Professional published poets, celebrities, numerous prize winners, student participation, OPEN MIKE.

Even more, it is about community, neighborhoods, diversity, Boston, and Massachusetts. This popular tradition is one of the largest events in Boston’s Contribution to National Poetry Month. FREE ADMISSION !!!

FOR INFORMATION: Tapestry of Voices: 617-306-9484 or 617-723-3716

Library: 617-536-5400

Wheelchair accessible. Assistive listening devices available. To request a sign language interpreter, or for other special needs, call 617-536-7855(TTY) at least two weeks before the program date.
Harris Gardner

Boston National Poetry Month Festival
Poets’ Reading Schedule
Boston Public Library
Rabb Lecture Hall

Saturday, April 10, 2010
10:00 Boston Latin High School, Andy Vo
10:10 Boston Latin High School, Justin Singletary
10:20 Boston Latin High School, Emmanuel Oppong-Yeboah
10:30 Boston Arts Academy, Erica Tilesnor
10:40 Boston Arts Academy, Osiris Morel
10:50 Walnut Hill School for the Arts. Gabriella Fee
11:00 Sam Cornish (Boston Poet Laureate)
11:10 Robert J. Clawson
11:20 Regie Gibson
11:30 Joanna Nealon
11:40 Elizabeth McKim
11:50 Cathy Salmons
12:00 Carol Weston
12:10 Robert K. Johnson
12:20 Jeffrey Harrison
12:30 Tim Gager
12:40 Kaji Aso Studio: Kate Finnegan,
Michael Bialis, John Ziemba
12:50 Mark Pawlak
1:00 Lisa Beatman
1:10 Susan Donnelly
1:20 Coleen Houlihan
1:30 Philip E. Burnham, Jr.
1:30- 3:00 OPEN MIKE- Room 5-6
1:40 Frank Blessington
1:50 Valerie Lawson
2:00 Diana Saenz
2:10 C.D. Collins
2:20 Walter Howard
2:30 Ron Goba
2:40 Elizabeth Doran
2:50 Wendy Mnookin
3:00 Barbara Helfgott-Hyett
3:10 Jack Scully
3:20 Andy Levesque
3:30 Sandra Storey
3:40 Tomas O’Leary
3:50 Molly Bennett
4:00 Molly Watt
4:10 Jan Schreiber
4:20 Anne Elizabeth Tom
4:30 Gloria Mindock
4:40 Ryk McIntyre

SUNDAY, APRIL 11, 2010

1:10 Tom Daley
1:20 Ifeanyi Menkiti
1:30 Lo Galluccio
1:40 Ellen Steinbaum
1:50 Victor Howes
2:00 Rhina P. Espaillat
2:10 Diana DerHovanessian
2:20 Tino Villanueva
2:30 Doug Holder
2:40 Lainie Senechal
2:50 Harris Gardner
3:00 Stuart Peterfreund
3:10 Irene Koronas
3:20 Kathleen Spivack
3:30 Marc Goldfinger
3:40 Charles Coe
3:50 Isabella Nebel
4:00 Alfred Nicole
4:10 Richard Wollman
4:20 Jennifer Barber
4:30 Afaa M. Weaver

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Lines Are Not My Friends by Stacia M. Fleegal

The Lines Are Not My Friends
Poems by
Stacia M. Fleegal
Cervena Barva
W. Somerville MA 02144
Copyright © 2010 by Stacia M. Fleegal
28 pages, softbound

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

Cervena Barva Press, headed by poet Gloria Mindock has a habit of
publishing talented poets and writers whose work is exciting to read
if not provocative. Stacia M. Fleegal’s latest entry in the poetry oeuvre
is like a crossover SUV – both exciting and provocative. It is enjoyable
while making the reader think.

Ms. Fleegal has takes on people and life that one does not always see
from glassblowers to revolutionaries, the latter carrying allusions to
John Wayne, the Three Little Pigs, perhaps a touch of Dylan Thomas,
but you have to think and imagine to see these and that is what makes
some of the poems a joy.

In one poem Fleegal defends anger in the opening lines of In Defense of Anger:

america is the quietest land of all the lands. Our billboards
say yes for us, no to the opposite of what’s on them.

later she provides these lines:

They lost your number when they switched to Verizon.
You turned around and painted it in the sky, and not in blue,

These are lines many a poet would have liked to pen, and so
are the opening lines of In Defense of Antagonizing People:

In football, the tip of the nose tackle’s nose
is the starting point of a metaphor
about peace. Yes, the good game ass-slap
always involves taking sides.

Ah the imagery, picture Vince Wilfork, the New England Patriots’
nose take as a metaphor about peace! Or even better, slapping
a 315 pound man’s butt!

Then there are some other poems which are right up there for
seriousness, sarcasm and some feminist humor as in Elegy for
Hillary’s Campaign, June 4, 2008.

But my personal favorite in this tidy little volume is The Call, in
which Fleegal, trying to call God (with a capital G), encounters
the frustration of dealing with automated phone answering systems.

For those who enjoy poetry with wry humor, different takes and
serious thoughts, this is a collection for you.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Somerville’s Meghann Brideau: A Painter and Curator who goes underwater and to outer space.

Somerville’s Meghann Brideau: A Painter and Curator who goes underwater and to outer space.

By Doug Holder

Meghann Brideau paintings do not depict ordinary space. They deal with life in the depths of the ocean and the vast expanse of outer space. Brideau, 27, is a native of Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass., and now a resident of Somerville. She is also a manager at the popular Bloc 11 Café in Union Square, and the curator for art exhibits at both Bloc 11 and the Diesel Café in Davis Square, Somerville. I talked with Brideau on a sunny and spring-like day at Bloc 11, (at my favorite table), next to the wall that displays the whimsical work of Somerville artist Sabina Kozak.

Brideau, a graduate of Syracuse University, told me that her own paintings are influenced by the artists Timothy Basil Ering and Leo Lionni, noted children's book illustrators. And indeed, Brideau’s paintings of an enigmatic octopus, her depiction of a starfish waving with long and languid arms, speak to the child in all of us.

Brideau, who previously lived and worked in London, England, finds that Somerville is just the right spot for a painter. She delights in the community of artists, and participates in the Somerville Arts Council’s Open Studios event every spring. She has a studio on Joy St., a stone’s throw from the café. The studio houses glassblowers, furniture restorers, photographers, etc…

Brideau used to be a teacher at Tufts New England Medical Center before she came to the café. When the old curator left for parts unknown management approached her about the curatorship. Since then Brideau has exhibited any number of Somerville artists. The list is long and includes Peter Bertand, who has beautiful and moody photographs of the old mills of Massachusetts. Other artists who have or will appear are: Torie Leigh and Ben Kauffman, to name just a few.

If you, dear reader, are a painter and want to exhibit at the Diesel or Bloc 11 be advised the waiting list is long. Brideau is not an elitist but she wants some degree of professionalism: a portfolio, framed and mounted works, and an exhibit or two under one’s belt.

Brideau is an unaffected artist. There does not seem to be any hint of the rarefied posturing one might associate with a curator, and other creatures of the arts milieu. Brideau embraces our rich artistic community, and it gives her a collective hug right back.

For more information about Brideau go to:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Jewish Book World ( Spring 2010): Review of Bert Stern's poetry collection "Steerage"


REVIEW: STEERAGE BY BERT STERN ( Ibbetson Street Press—2009)

Like children of the Holocaust, those whose parents suffered from pogroms or who were forced from their homeland because of religious persecution carry the scars forever. The cost of such escape never seems to leave Bert Stern, one example of an adult son who knows, as he states so directly in “Lotty is Born.” “…let him tell me if they can/if I am recompense for what they endured.” The remaining five parts of this notable collection might be described as an appreciation of beauty and fragility of life thereafter. In the title poem, Stern notes the full effect of such survival, “…he said what he hoped, / as if God gave us life/as we want it. But order is like houses children weave from grasses, twigs/and leaves.” Nature as it appears in upstate Buffalo, New York is a repeated mirror image of deep beauty and death, with the latter being existentially, not morbidly, depicted. One other outstanding poem is “Midrash: Abraham” in which after his son remains after the great sacrifice “…broken there, complete and alone, /bent by perfection.” Steerage is a celebration of new life forever reviewed by the past.

--Deborah Schoeneman

**** To order “Steerage” by Bert Stern go to

Monday, March 15, 2010

Somerville's Boston Review is a finalist for National Magazine Awards

Well-I was having breakfast at Bloc 11 in Union Square in Somerville, trying to dry off from another deluge when Will Fertman, PR man of The Boston Review dropped by my table to chat. He told me The Boston Review, located in the Paris of New England, has been named a finalist for the National Magazine Awards. I can remember 18 yrs. ago working as an editorial asst. with their slush pile at the Review's down-at-the-heels headquarters in Chinatown--Boston. Congrats!

"The prison's burning again"

That's how Tom Barry's in-depth investigation into private border prisons begins. It's a long article in a small magazine, far outside the New York-D.C. media axis. But since appearing in Boston Review's November issue, it's been reprinted online and featured on episodes of Fresh Air and Dan Rather Reports, pushing its audience into the millions. Now it's earned BR a spot as finalist for a prestigious National Magazine Award, and it's demonstrating how to make magazines work in the age of micro-blogs and mega-media.

As commercial outlets continue to cut back on long-form journalism, Boston Review's role as a nonprofit springboard is growing. "Texas" is typical of BR's approach-- giving an expert correspondent the editorial support and column inches (7,000 words) they need to build their case, pushing the story into mainstream coverage.

Says BR co-editor Deb Chasman, "Other media had reported fragments of the story, but Tom understood how policy affected the entire community, from immigrants to corporate boards to border-town politicians."

That commitment to depth put Boston Review on the NMA finalist list, alongside The New Yorker and National Geographic. The intellectual approach has been profitable for the magazine too, with circulation rising 15% on paper and 50% online since 2008. With the future uncertain for many print publications, BR has created a niche for itself, feeding both the twitchy constellation blogs and the content-hungry giants of the mainstream media the stories they can't find elsewhere.

The National Magazine Award winners will be announced on April 22. For more information, visit:

To read Tom Barry's "A Death in Texas", visit: